‘Community Libraries’ in Parks

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Just wanting to share a positive local story about a community-minded gentleman I visited this week.

Over the past year, ‘community libraries’ have been appearing in parks in the Waitematā Local Board area, particularly in Grey Lynn and Ponsonby. These have been built, installed and maintained by a local man, John Pakenham, at his own expense as a community initiative with the agreement of the Parks department.

So far, these boxes have been installed in Vermont, Hakanoa and Tole Reserves. Mr Pakenham is interested in installing another at Grey Lynn Park but we will need to consult with the Parks Advisory Group and other stakeholders first.

He was inspired, after hearing about the idea from American friends, to do the same in Auckland. He built the first of these libraries on top of the front fence at his home on Richmond Road. He has a distinctive berm planting and a rope swing hangs from the branch of a tree in front of his house. This led him to call this first library the ‘swing-by library’. His grand-children have painted the outside of the box and it has been free of vandalism until recently when some minor scratches were made on the perspex doors.

He spread the word in community networks and online that he was seeking second-hand books for distribution and his house became a local drop-off point for second-hand books. He says that he initially wasn’t sure what to do with the unexpectedly large influx but soon sorted the more useful editions out and has used them to stock his libraries. On only one occasion so far has there been any damage caused to the libraries in the parks when someone pulled out all the books in one and scattered them on the ground. Apart from that one incident, they have been undamaged.

Mr Pakenham has noted a high turnover of books at the boxes so locals have clearly been taking books and replacing them with their own. He is delighted at the organic uptake of the idea and hopes that the boxes will become largely self-sustaining as the community look after and replenish the books.

It is a real pleasure to see such community spirit and initiative and I am happy to continue supporting these libraries in parks as the lead of the Waitematā Local Board Parks portfolio.

About Vernon Tava

Barrister. Lives in Auckland, New Zealand.
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